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If I Had Cancer, Will My Children Get Cancer?

If I had a cancer as a child, will my children be at risk for cancer?

Will I pass on an abnormal gene to my kids that could cause cancer?

Should my children have genetic testing?

Childhood cancer survivors often ask these questions.

The facts:

  • Most cases of childhood cancer are not thought to be inherited from a family member.
  • Studies suggest that 5-15% of childhood cancer patients are born with one of several conditions that cause an increased risk for cancer.
  • Sometimes the child is the first in the family to have the genetic condition. Other times children may inherit it from one or both parents.
  • There is a chance the affected person will pass the condition on to future children.
  • Just because someone has an inherited condition does not mean he or she will develop cancer.

Should my child have genetic testing?

A genetic counselor can help answer questions about genetic testing and support families in their decision-making.

Counselors can also provide information about the risk of passing on a genetic condition that could increase the chances of developing cancer. 

In general, genetic testing starts with the person who had cancer. If something is found, the person may choose to have his or her children tested.

Reviewed: March 2019